A golden-doodle headed to class at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) on May 16.
Violet, a golden retriever/poodle mix born on March 7, will serve as a therapy dog for students in the high school’s Multiply Disabled (MD) program. The MD program features a self-contained classroom for students who require special education and related services.
Board of Education members Lisa Waters and Annie McGinty organized the purchase, made possible by contributions from private donors. Private donations will continue to be used for training and additional items as needed.
Interest in a therapy dog for RFH students was sparked when Principal Tracy Handerhan, Vice Principal Stephen Sarles, and supervisor of Special Services Carol Krsyzckowski attended a presentation about the Highlands School therapy dog (Hudson).
The group was impressed and shared the information with other staff members. Soon after, a visit by local therapy dog Savannah and her handler Pamela Marcellus was arranged by teacher Jennifer Dellett and instructional aide Victoria Vaughan.
“Savannah’s visit to the classroom at RFH went extremely well,” said Dellett. “Students who had never read aloud were suddenly volunteering to read poetry and short stories. Savannah created a level of comfort that could arguably come only from a therapy dog.”
Violet arrived home to Vaughan’s house on May 13. She has volunteered to serve as the dog’s handler. Next up is Violet’s training, consisting of puppy and good citizen schools, and therapy dog school.
Violet will be a daily presence in the MD classroom, where students will work with their teachers and the handler to help care for her and take ownership. The dog’s classroom care by the students is designed to promote independence and life skills. The dog will also foster a comfortable and therapeutic environment in which students can enhance their learning skills.
Krsyzckowski said that the introduction of a therapy dog will greatly benefit not only the MD students but the rest of the RFH population as well.
“Extensive research has found that a therapy dog increases mental stimulation, acceptance, and empathy along with countless other benefits,” she said. “Therapy dogs have been shown to enhance personal well-being, achievement, and overall happiness.”
— Edited press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School